Babies are completely dependent on you for their safety. And toddlers, who can be desperate to show their independence remain extremely vulnerable without attentive supervision from adults. Here’s what you can do to keep them safe.
Preventing injury and stopping babies falling
Babies soon learn to wriggle and kick. It’s not long before they can roll over, which means that they can roll off beds and changing tables.
Here are some things you can do to stop your baby being injured:
- Change your baby’s nappy on a changing mat on the floor.
- Don’t leave your baby unattended on a bed, sofa or changing table, even for a second, as they could roll off.
- Don’t put your baby in a bouncing cradle or baby car seat on a table or kitchen worktop as their wriggling could tip it over the edge.
- Hold on to the handrail when carrying your baby up and down stairs in case you trip.
- Watch where you’re putting your feet while carrying your baby. It’s easy to trip over something like a toy.
- Use a five-point harness to secure your baby in a highchair or pram.
Once they learn to crawl, babies may try to climb onto things, such as sofas, which increases the risk of falling. Here are some injury prevention tips for parents of crawling babies:
- Fit safety gates at the top and bottom of the stairs to stop a baby from climbing stairs or falling down them. Close the gates properly after you go through them.
- If the gaps between banisters or balcony railings are more than 6.5cm (2.5 inches) wide, cover them with boards or safety netting. Small babies may be able to squeeze their bodies through, but not their heads.
- Keep low furniture away from windows. Have windows fitted with locks or safety catches that restrict the opening to less than 6.5cm (2.5 inches), to stop babies climbing out. Make sure adults know where the keys are kept in case of a fire.
- Don't allow your baby to use a baby walker. They're dangerous and can cause serious accidents.
- Remove cot toys and cot bumpers as a baby can climb on them and may fall out of the cot.
When babies start to walk, they're unsteady on their feet but can move very quickly, although they tend to trip and fall. Here are some injury prevention tips for parents of toddlers:
- Continue to use safety gates at the top and bottom of the stairs until your infant is at least two years old.
- Teach your child how to climb stairs but never let them go up and down on their own (even four-year-olds may need some help).
- Don’t let children under five sleep in the top bunk of a bunk bed, as they can easily fall out.
- Keep low furniture away from windows and ensure that windows are fitted with locks or safety catches. Make sure adults know where the keys are kept in case of fire.
- Continue to use a five-point harness when your child is in their highchair or pushchair.
- Use safety glass in low glass doors and windows or cover panes with safety film. Safety film holds the window together if the glass is broken.
- Keep scissors, knives and razors out of children's reach.
- Special devices can stop doors from closing properly, preventing your child’s fingers getting trapped. At night, remember to close doors to stop any potential fires from spreading.
- If furniture has sharp corners, use corner protectors to prevent your child from hurting their head.
Preventing burns and scalds
A baby’s skin is much thinner than an adult’s and will burn much more easily. This means you need to take extra care at bathtime.
- Babies will grab at brightly coloured objects, such as mugs. If you’re having a hot drink, put it down before you hold your baby. Keep hot drinks well away from all young children – even older toddlers. A hot drink can still scald 20 minutes after it was made.
- After warming a bottle of milk, shake the bottle well and test the temperature of the milk by placing a few drops on the inside of your wrist before feeding. It should feel lukewarm, not hot.
- Toddlers will play with anything they can reach, so keep matches and lighters out of young children’s sight and reach.
- Use a kettle with a short or curly flex to stop it hanging over the edge of the work surface, where it could be grabbed.
- When cooking, use the rings at the back of the cooker and turn saucepan handles towards the back so they can’t be grabbed by little fingers.
- It’s best to keep your toddler out of the kitchen, well away from kettles, saucepans and hot oven doors. You could put a safety gate across the doorway.
- When you’ve finished using your iron or hair straighteners, put them out of reach while they cool down. Make sure your child can’t grab the flex while you’re using them.
Stopping choking or suffocating
Babies can choke very easily, even on their milk. They will be tempted to put small objects in their mouths that could cause choking, even when they’re quite young.
- If you give your baby a bottle, always hold the bottle and your baby while they're feeding.
- Keep your baby out of reach of small objects, such as buttons, coins and small toy parts.
- Once your baby has started on solid food, always cut it up into small pieces. Babies can choke on something as small as a grape.
- Don’t give young children hard food such as boiled sweets.
- Don’t give whole peanuts or other nuts to children under five years old, as they could choke.
- Don’t leave your children when they're eating. Encourage them to sit still as running around while eating could make them choke.
- Don’t use pillows or duvets with babies under the age of one as they can suffocate if their face gets smothered. They won’t be able to push the duvet away.
- Keep plastic bags of all types out of reach and sight of young children so that they can’t play with them and put them over their head.
- Don’t tie a dummy to your baby’s clothes as the tie or ribbon could strangle them.
- Toddlers can strangle themselves when playing with cords. They can also get their heads stuck when they squeeze their body through small gaps. This can be particularly dangerous if their feet are off the ground.
- Cut back or tie up curtain or blind cords so that they’re well out of your toddler’s reach.
- Don’t leave any type of rope or cord lying around, including dressing-gown cords.
- Stop toddlers from trying to squeeze through rails or banisters.
- Keep toys and garden play equipment well away from washing lines so that children can't stand on them and reach the line.
Babies can drown in as little as 5cm (two inches) of water. Drowning is one of the commonest causes of children’s death – it’s often silent so you won’t necessarily hear any noise or struggle.
- Stay with your baby all the time that they're in the bath. Never leave them for a moment, even if there’s an older brother or sister in the bath with them.
- If you use a bath seat, remember that it’s not a safety device. You still need to stay with your baby all the time.
- Empty the bath as soon as you’ve taken your child out.
- If you have a garden pond, fence it off, fill it in or securely cover it.
- Watch toddlers when they're in a paddling pool or playing near water. Empty the paddling pool straight after use.
- Make sure your garden is secure so that your child can’t get into neighbouring gardens, where there may be ponds or other drowning hazards.
- Keep all medicines locked away or high up out of reach and sight.
- Keep cleaning products high up out of reach. If this isn’t possible, fit safety catches to low cupboard doors. Choose cleaning products that contain a bittering agent. This makes them taste nasty, so children are less likely to swallow them.
- Make sure bottle tops and lids are always firmly closed when not in use.
- Toddlers may be able to climb and do simple things like opening containers. They’ll also put things in their mouth to explore taste and texture. This is all perfectly normal, but it can lead to injuries if you don’t take care.
- Check your garden for poisonous plants. Teach your children not to eat anything they pick outdoors until they’ve checked with an adult. For more information, see Plant dangers in the garden and countryside.